Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko (91) keeps the puck along the boards away from Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov (9). (Photo courtesy: Chris Lee, STL Post-Dispatch)
ST. LOUIS, MO – The St. Louis Blues (43-28-9) are in the final homestand of the regular season in a 7 pm contest against the Philadelphia Flyers (37-35-8). The Blues came up a point short of tying the lead in the Central Division with a shootout loss against the Blackhawks last night. Tyler Bozak scored late in the third period to tie the game 3-3.
“They played a good game,” he told STL-Today after the loss. “They played hard and controlled the play for most of the game. I thought we didn’t play our best there, but it was nice to claw back in and get that point.” The Blues’ lone point puts them one point behind the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators for first and second in the standings, with all three teams playing tonight.
The Philadelphia Flyers look to play spoiler against the Blues after being eliminated from playoff contention last week. The Flyers also look to get back into the win column, after losing their last five of six and eight in eleven, their most recent being a 6-2 loss to the Stars. The Flyers were in a 2-0 hole for the 30th time in 80 games this season and failed to mount a comeback in Dallas.
“When you’re always chasing the game, it’s tough,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere told the Philly Inquirer. “You’re going to get more tired, so I think for us, it’s about bearing down a little bit and getting better starts.” The Flyers’ game 81 will be their final road game and they will look for answers to rebuild in the offseason.
The Blues and Flyers meet for the second time this season at Enterprise Center. Rookie Jordan Binnington got his first career start, win, and shutout in a 3-0 victory in Philadelphia back in January.
Hard to Stop a Tank
The Blues have contributed the majority of their success in this second half to their head coach Craig Berube, rookie Jordan Binnington, and the contributions of their depth scoring. However, fans can’t forget the resurgence of superstar Vladimir “Tank” Tarasenko. After a mediocre start with 12 goals in 42 games, Tarasenko has 20 goals in his last 33, tied for second in the NHL in that period. His plus/minus in that period is also third in the league at +21. While his surge hasn’t been the most phenomenal numbers we’ve seen from him, coach Berube still values Tarasenko for the all-around forward he’s become.
“The first part of the year, I think he was getting good looks,” Berube told STL-Today. “They didn’t go in. But I think [Tarasenko], he’s worked really hard. I find game in and game out, he’s working really hard. He’s doing a lot of good things, not just scoring goals. He’s just a more complete player.”
The Flyers’ struggles this season have stemmed from the goaltending fiasco in Philly. The Flyers tried their luck with multiple seasoned veterans, including their own Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, but injuries and defensive holes caused a lot of chaos. In total, the Flyers had an NHL-record eight goalies on their roster at any given point this season, most of them playing less than 15 games.
Philadelphia’s one silver lining is their rising star Carter Hart. The 20 year-old rookie goaltender posted a 16-12-1 record this season with a .919 save percentage, good for 10th in the league. The young Sherwood Park, Alberta native spent his summer under the tutelage of former Vezina winner Cam Talbot and produced great results. With Hart likely becoming the new starter for Philadelphia next season, the Flyers will determine whether to stick with Elliott or Talbot as their backup. While having better numbers, Elliott has been much more injury-prone in the latter half of his career.
The Blues and Flyers face off tonight at Enterprise Center at 8 pm ET. To listen and watch tonight’s game, head to:
STL: FSMW, KYKY 98.1, NHL.tv
PHI: NSP, WPEN 97.5, NHL.tv
10 Schenn – 90 O’Reilly – 91 Tarasenko
57 Perron – 70 Sundqvist – 17 Schwartz
7 Maroon – 12 Bozak – 18 Thomas
12 Sanford – 49 Barbashev – 20 Steen
27 Pietrangelo – 29 Dunn
55 Parayko – 19 Bouwmeester
4 Gunnarsson – 41 Bortuzzo
25 van Riemsdyk – 14 Couturier – 28 Giroux
23 Lindblom – 19 Patrick – 93 Voracek
38 Hartman – 21 Laughton – 11 Konecny
12 Raffl – 10 Knight – 27 Bailey
53 Gostisbehere – 61 Myers
6 Sanheim – 9 Provorov
3 Gudas – 8 Hagg
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